How To Be A Sponsor For Women During Women’s History Month & Beyond

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Mar. 19 2020, Published 4:18 a.m. ET

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Women are often encouraged to be allies for one another. When navigating career moves and decisions about what to do next, it’s great to have an ally or two on your side. Allies can talk you through options and help you navigate your career. In addition to allyship, sponsorship is essential in helping women navigate career choices. 

Sponsorship is best defined as having someone inside your organization that is actively advocating and helping you find the next career opportunity. With women holding only 24 percent of senior management roles, the need for sponsorship becomes critical when trying to move up in your career. 

I am very fortunate to have many sponsors who have helped support me in getting where I am today. At my current company, sponsors have helped me find my next role internally. My sponsors help me navigate times of uncertainty when I’m not sure what I want to do next. One of my big goals for 2020 is to return the favor. I’m taking the actions I share below to help ensure other women feel as supported as I do in my own career. 

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Share Your Own Story Publicly 

Oftentimes, individuals only see the promotion that their team members receive. Without context, it’s hard to know how others land the roles they have at an organization. Seeing just the end result can be disheartening. Whether it be documenting the steps you’ve taken or an in-person presentation, openly share your story. This can help other women feel that they themselves have the power to make career moves that excite them. 

One way I ensure women know my career journey is by sharing details about my career in our women’s group Slack channel. Also, I often raise my hand to present to others at different career events inside and outside our organization. The path to sharing your story will look different for every person, so choose a path you are most comfortable with. 

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Make Yourself Available To Others 

Once you share your story, be available for women in your workplace to tap you as a sponsor. Consider joining your company’s Business Resource Group (BRG) or Employee Resource Group (ERG). These groups serve as a way to meet other women and hear about their career goals. If a group doesn’t exist, establishing one at your company is a great way to rally women around supporting one another. Additionally, attend networking events with your colleagues. This can help them open up and share how they would like to be supported more in their careers.  

Another way to make yourself available to others is by considering them for opportunities that they might not hear about. For Jillian Dixon, my colleague and friend, sponsorship is all about advocating for others that aren’t in the room. “I once heard ‘the most important conversations of your career happen when you’re not in the room’, so to me empowering women is about advocating,” Dixon said. “Advocating to give women the floor in meetings, advocating for one another’s ideas, and perhaps most importantly, advocating when they aren’t present to do so for themselves.”

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Consider Shadow Days Or Office Hours

Shadow days allow women to experience first-hand what your job consists of on a day-to-day basis. Whether it be a big meeting, presentation, or working session, seeing a real-life example helps to bring career options to life. Once you find women who are interested in a particular part of your work, encourage them to sit in on meetings. You can then talk to them after about what they learned. 

Another informal option is holding office hours where your colleagues can take time and meet with you. Having a set time on your calendar that women can book helps take the pressure off them to reach out. It can additionally ensure you keep sponsorship a priority.

men and women in the workplace

Tap Other Men And Women In Leadership To Become Sponsors

Encouraging others in your workplace to sponsor women around them helps foster inclusion. Use examples and success stories to demonstrate the value of spending the time to invest in women and their careers. Men in leadership roles have an incredible opportunity to help drive more women’s leadership through sponsorship.

Remember that when getting started any impact you can make is worth the time. Personally, I am forever grateful for all of my sponsors. They continue to help me become a sponsor for the next woman in line. 

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By: Kim Blight

Kimberly Blight is a writer based in Chicago. A mother of one, she is on a mission to improve the re-onboarding experience for parents when they return to work from leave. She currently works as a Program Manager at Sprout Social and also helps to lead their New Parent Program and Women's group.

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